Meet IESE Business School’s MBA Class Of 2024

The view of Barcelona from the IESE campus

TRUST THE PROCESS

Admittedly, the heavy reading load can seem daunting at first, adds Goffi. That’s why he urges students not to get sucked into overthinking the cases. “Solve the cases strategically. You don’t need to solve absolutely everything about it, you just need to identify the main problems and priorities and find supporting evidence throughout the case to back up your approach.”

Late night readings aren’t the only demands weighing the class down. Living in Barcelona means students are likely to have their weekends booked up with social events, Meg Hirai observes. To make the best use of time, class members learned to make every minute count.

“Be intentional on how you choose to spend time,” says Cynthia Kreng. “Don’t feel pressured to spend time on certain subjects or activities just because other people are doing so.”

In the hallways, you’ll hear a common refrain at IESE: “Trust the process.” Fact is, MBAs are expected to feel swamped and exhausted from the fast pace and heavy demands. That’s by design. The goal is to push students to reflect and adapt; ruthlessly set priorities and tap into classmates and faculty; and stay calm and gut through it.

“It’s like jumping in cold water,” contends Raghad Gomaa. “I remember being very overwhelmed for the first few weeks, where I had to adjust to going back to school, moving to a new country, choosing a career track, joining clubs, attending events, reading cases and contributing to my team and during class. However, without this intensity, I don’t think I would have been able to enjoy such a steep learning curve. My advice to first years is to not stress (that’s easier said than done, but trust me on it), everything will fall into place, and remember, you can’t have it all, so set your priorities straight. Just trust the process and jump in the water. It will pay off.”

IESE Barcelona – South Campus Exterior

LIVING LARGE IN BARCELONA

When IESE students reach their breaking point, there is always Barcelona – or “Barna” for the locals. Here, you can start your morning lounging on the beach before driving two hours to spend the afternoon skiing or hiking in the mountains. By evening, you can drink vermouth before hitting a club. Barcelona has it all. And you can walk anywhere in 30 minutes, says Yajie Luo. Think 250 days of sun, Gothic and Modernisme architecture, Jamón and Bocadillos – the home of Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudí – all at two-thirds the cost of London.

‘Barcelona is such a beautiful and lively city and I really enjoy that there always seems to be something happening somewhere,” explains Emeline Beltjens. “In summer it’s the local festival of each Barrio; in winter it’s the Christmas markets and processions for the different celebrations. It is not too small and not too big, so it’s possible to walk or cycle to different places and the infrastructure for that is really good. It also helps that it’s terrace-weather all year long!”

For Marco Goffi, the best part of Barcelona has been the Passeig de Gracia, an iconic north-south thoroughfare through the city. “It’s a wonderful place to walk around and admire the beautiful Gaudi buildings, as well as shops and bars of all kinds. The city is a great place to earn an MBA and the locals are very friendly and always open to a chat. This also gives you the opportunity to learn one of the most spoken languages in the world, although the city is also extremely international. Moreover, Barcelona is increasingly becoming an important business hub, especially with the growing startup ecosystem and the constant attention to innovation and research.”

IESE Students on Campus

THE BIG E’S: ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND ESG

Not surprisingly, IESE has emerged as an entrepreneurial powerhouse. Alumni have raised $11.8 billion dollars in startup funding, while creating 72,000 jobs and 3 unicorns. In fact, IESE reports that nearly a third of its grads launch a business within five years of graduation. The first European business school to teach entrepreneurship, IESE describes itself as “Founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.” The center of activity is the IESE Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, which runs bootcamps for Founders, Search Funds, and Technology and holds 90 events and 16 electives. At the same time, it maintains networks that include 400 business angels and 340 search fund investors – not to mention 8,000 entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurship has always been a dream of mine and is also one of the most important aspects that drew me to IESE,” explains Cynthia Kreng. “The large alumni base makes it an attractive institution in which to explore and experiment with what it takes to start a new company or business. Events like the Search Fund Conference also draw professionals in the field from all over the world to Barcelona, providing yet another opportunity for me to learn from the best.”

While entrepreneurship remains popular at IESE, ESG has emerged as its marquee offering. Like many MBAs, Marco Goffi is pursuing a career path defined by making an impact for the greater good. From a Sustainability & Responsible Business concentration to an MBA Impact Investment Fund, IESE has created an array of ESG programming that touches every corner of the IESE experience.

“What really stood out to me, and still does, is the school’s focus on making a difference,” Goffi explains. “This can be seen in many ways, such as their “Doing Good Doing Well” conference, the incorporation of the 17 UN sustainable development goals in every class, and the emphasis on sustainability in the curriculum.”

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ADMISSIONS DIRECTOR

IESE Students on Campus

You could say IESE is a far-flung enterprise, with campuses in Barcelona, Madrid, Munich, São Paulo, and New York City. The school also features 55,000 alumni in 149 countries. In a year, you can add the 353 students in the Class of 2024 to the list – with women making up a 37% share of the class. Earlier this year, P&Q reached out to Paula Amorim, MBA Admissions Director, to learn more about what’s ahead for IESE and what makes the program so special. Here are her thoughts on what MBAs can expect from the program.

P&Q: If you were giving a campus tour, what is the first place you’d take an MBA applicant? Why is that so important to the MBA experience?

PA: “We first give a general tour of our South Campus, which is exclusive for MBAs, so they can get a grasp of how it feels to be a student on campus. Then we take them to our North Campus, where we usually host our Executive Education programs and bigger events and conferences (including our Career Forums and Doing Good Doing Well Conference). From there, you have a breathtaking view over Barcelona and it brings the perspective that the MBA is a greater experience than just the classes and time you spend on campus. The city provides an ecosystem that will enhance these precious months you spend here, and that should be taken into account when choosing your business school.

P&Q: What is the most innovative thing you have introduced into the MBA program in recent years? How has it been a game-changer for your program?

PA: “It’s hard to pick one thing as the program is constantly changing to remain relevant, especially considering evolving global business needs and the feedback from our students. There has been a big focus on adding new courses to fulfill the needs we’ve been seeing in the market for digital skill sets, such as a bootcamp on Python.

Another exciting development is the change in the final project of the MBA. We’re now going to have the Executive Simulation, which is our most popular elective in the second year, as the final project of the MBA. It is an intensive week where students are divided into teams, with each team member acting as a different c-suite executive in a company. They all have to make critical decisions in a dynamic environment that simulates the outcome for their business, in a market that is created by the interaction of all the teams’ decisions. Our students often comment that this was their most valuable academic experience, as they have to gather the learnings from different subjects studied during the MBA and then put it into practice with tangible results. Teamwork is a big part of the experience, as you need to negotiate with the CFO, CEO, COO, CMO, depending on your role.”

Paula Amorim, IESE Director of Admissions

P&Q: What have MBAs told you is the most memorable, signature experience they’ve had in your program? Why did it resonate so much with them?

PA: “Every person has a unique experience during his or her MBA, but there’s almost a unanimous answer when it comes to “most remarkable” questions –the people they’ve met. At IESE, we put a lot of focus on bringing in the right students that will add and contribute to the whole cohort. We carefully select our people according to the values they have, their potential to create impact and elements of their background that support the value they will bring to the IESE community. Therefore, we end up with a group of people that are genuinely motivated to develop themselves and helping others develop. This creates long lasting bonds and a true experience of kindness and partnership that many of our students had not experienced before coming to IESE. As an alumna myself, I can attest to this feeling and wish that everyone has the luck of experiencing something similar in their lives.”

P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish students knew more about? How does that make your graduates more valuable to prospective employers?

PA: “I´m not sure if it’s necessarily underrated, but something I find very precious at IESE that is not always appreciated by candidates is the general management approach to the program. There might be a tendency among candidates of overspecialization or a desire to develop very specific and technical skills, but we forget that knowledge has an expiration date. Everything we learn now, especially in terms of technical content, will be outdated with time. And the time to reach obsolescence is getting shorter and shorter, with the speed the world moves today.

That’s why at IESE we strive to develop a way of thinking that helps you tackle new and changing business problems. We want our students and alumni to think of a company as a whole business, with both internal and external stakeholders that can all have different needs and perspectives that must be considered. It is crucial to have this global understanding so you can build skills that will help you navigate different waters, no matter how much the world has changed. The case method is a great facilitator for that as it shows the complexity of business situations and shows very clearly how a problem can be approached multiple ways with no clear right answer. This type of knowledge doesn’t expire.”

P&Q: How would you describe the IESE Business School culture? Considering that IESE ranks among the top MBA programs for pay according to The Economist, how does the IESE culture give MBAs an advantage in the marketplace after graduation?

PA: “Our culture includes a very strong emphasis on collaboration. Spirit of service is one of our values and the whole experience is designed in a way that makes students practice that on a daily basis, be it during team meetings, mock interviews, club events or inside the classroom. There is a very solid sense of community and kindness, and students witness firsthand how it is possible to achieve better results by collaborating and helping each other. It doesn’t come that easy though, since the MBA environment is very diverse and many times you are going to be dealing with people very different from yourself. As a result, working on communication and empathy is crucial to building a constructive environment where people feel they can trust each other. That’s IESE’s graduates’ differentiator when rejoining the job market. At the end, everybody is looking for people that will not only get the job done, but also bring a positive climate to the team, no matter how difficult the situation. IESE’s MBAs are trained to succeed in the toughest environments, always giving a hand to those surrounding them to support success for their team.”

MBA Student Hometown Undergrad Alma Mater Last Employer
Emeline Beltjens Vossem, Belgium Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne AFRY Switzerland
Oscar Bravo Mexico City, Mexico Monterrey Institute of Technology Mastercard
Angela de la Peña Bilbao, Spain ICADE BBVA
Ross Gething Cape Town, South Africa University of Cape Town First National Bank
Marco Goffi Bergamo, Italy Bocconi University SheerID
Raghad Gomaa Cairo, Egypt American University of Sharjah Boston Consulting Group
Meg Hirai Seattle, WA University of Washington Concentrix
Yasushi Kobayashi Yokohama, Japan Waseda University Toyota Tsusho Corporation
Cynthia Kreng Tainan, Taiwan University of Michigan Microsoft
Yajie Luo Guangzhou City, China South China Normal University Alibaba
Nikhil Santhosh Stephen Cochin, India Vellore Institute of Technology Instalaza S.A.
Boyd Williams McCrory, AR United States Military Academy U.S. Army

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